I grew up in West Chester, Pennsylvania, which is only a few miles away from a small town named Kennett Square. Kennett Square might seem insignificant to most, but if you love mushrooms, this is an important place. More than 51% of the nation’s mushroom crops are grown there — the town’s tagline is “The Mushroom Capital of the World.” Ok, so the world? Maybe not, but southeastern Pennsylvania does grow a lot of mushrooms. Whether it’s because I grew up here or not, one thing is for sure: I love mushrooms!
We tend to associate nutritious fruits and veggies with bright beautiful colors, but don’t be fooled — these earthy gems are packed with nutrients. They’re an excellent source of vitamin D and contain selenium, niacin, riboflavin and potassium. Better still, they’re low in calories, fat free, cholesterol free and revered by many eastern cultures for their immunity-building properties.
Mushrooms come in a variety of shapes, flavors and textures (more on that below). As for that distinct earthy flavor, mushrooms are an excellent example of umami, the fifth basic taste that roughly translates to “savory.”
Some Mushroom Basics
- Make sure fresh mushrooms have a firm, smooth, plump appearance.
- Skip the slimy mushrooms.
- Dry mushrooms should be uniform in color and free of insect holes.
- Buy dried mushrooms in bulk to save money and enjoy them out of season)
- Mushrooms will keep for about a week in their original packaging.
- Once out of their package, re-store them in a paper bag, not plastic, which can trap moisture and cause them to get mushy.
- Don’t store mushrooms in the crisper.
- Cooked mushrooms will last for one month in the freezer; dried ones keep for up to one year.
- Don’t freeze fresh mushrooms.
- Brush off dirt with a clean towel or your fingers.
- You can rinse mushrooms quickly under cold water but avoid soaking them as they will absorb the water. Dry them immediately.
- Soak dried mushrooms in warm water to rehydrate them; save the water for a delicious broth.
- Common Types
- White (a.k.a. “button”): mild, juicy, inexpensive and great for the mushroom novice.
- Cremini: similar to the button mushroom in size and shape but brown in color and earthy in flavor; great on the grill, sautéed or roasted.
- Portobello: a relative of the cremini but much larger in size; provides a rich, meaty texture and flavor that’s good for grilling or as a meat substitute.
- Shitake: concentrated earthy, almost woody, flavor; goes well with fish, meat and poultry (be sure to remove the stems).
- Enoki Mushrooms: delicate and mild with a bit of crunch; great addition to stir-fries.
- Morels: a wild mushroom that’s distinct for its honeycomb appearance; great for a special occasion (they’re pricey, dried ones are cheaper); avoid eating them raw as they can cause digestive upset.
- Chantrelles: a wild mushroom with a beautiful golden color and aromatic fruity aroma.
So now what you know the basics, how about a simple dish? This quick mixed mushroom sauté works as a side, with rustic bread or as the perfect topper for chicken, beef, pork or even fish.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds mushrooms, mixed varieties
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoon fresh thyme
Heat the oil in two large, non-stick skillets over high heat. Add half of the mushrooms, garlic, lemon zest and thyme to each skillet (if you crowd the mushrooms they will steam instead of brown). Cook for 5 to 8 minutes until browned. Season with salt and pepper and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer or until tender.
NOTE: Don’t salt your mushrooms at the beginning of the cooking process or they will not brown.
Calories: 89; Fat: 4.3 grams; Saturated Fat: .6 grams; Protein: 7.5 grams; Carbohydrates: 11.4 grams; Cholesterol: 0 milligrams; Sodium: 145 milligrams sodium; Fiber: 3.75 grams